Jason Calacanis, founder of Weblogs, Inc. which he sold to AOL for $25,000,000, said the following at the Dec/2006 Search Engine Strategies conference in Chicago…
"SEO is bullshit, if you generate a web page with good content Google will rank the page properly."
Now, a simplistic generalization (such as the one above) is meant to make a point, not win a debate. It is, of course, a great way to start a debate and win tons of publicity, especially if you make it at a conference full of SEOers! And so…
Predictably, he was slammed by SEOers who promptly left-brained their way deeply into debate on details. Or they slammed him with personal insults. Or both. SEOers tend to miss the forest for the trees.
Mr. Calacanis’s point was merely that Search Engines are getting better at recognizing which pages best meet what a searcher seeks. More and more, "best" means highest quality content.
Nowadays, SEO services such as site architecture, relevance, links, etc. merely form the "ante" to get into the game, to be considered as a "candidate" for any particular search. And that is what SEOers provide. Such a service is of value, but it’s hardly "optimization"… not anymore.
What’s a service like that worth? Well, I guess it could be argued that any service (ex., hitting home runs for the New York Yankees) is worth whatever the buyer is willing to pay. But what if you look at how much you can buy it for elsewhere? That service is included in our product, Site Build it!. And it’s only a small part of what SBI! delivers, so it could be argued that SEO is worth some small fraction of $300 (or SBI! is worth one heck of a lot more than $299!).
Yes, there are exceptions. Some SEOers put a heavy emphasis (i.e., not just lip service) on creating great content — super! Some "algorithm-chasers" are starting to "get it." And there are other exceptions (ex., huge, dynamically driven sites require special expertise).
But overall, more and more companies are learning how fundamental the "ante" is. The value of SEO itself has nowhere to go but down.
The real value is in showing businesses how to generate their own organic traffic by overdelivering high-value, original content. And by that, I don’t just mean for the 20-30 keywords that form the head of the long tail of a site’s keywords, but for the thousands, tens of thousands, of keywords that form the rest of the long tail.
That long tail usually amounts to 75-80% of a well-executed content site’s traffic. That kind of traffic builds a base of diversified, growing, and targeted traffic. There is no noisy gnashing of teeth when Google Dances or Yahoo! Burps. Why? Because they don’t depend on "the head." And, in any event, by keeping it real, they are unlikely to be affected by dances and burps.
But I digress. Back to Jason Calacanis and his dismissal of SEO….
"Hell hath no fury like an SEOer scorned." I learned that first-hand back in Feb, 2005. Almost 2 years ago, if you replace "bullshit" with "doomed," we released a book explaining where the engines were headed and why "SEO is doomed."
It was an internal release to Site Build It! owners ("SBIers"). SEOers who found it replied with the exact same arguments (and vehemence) that they are using today. SBIers merely went about their business and outperformed most "professional SEOers" along the way, the majority ending up in the Top 3% of all sites.
Read the book (right-click to download) and you see how well that book called the future. Its message is as valid today as it was then. And it is more valid than ever. As SEOers continue to argue and flame, blinders firmly affixed, the (web)world is passing them by.
What really takes you the "rest of the way"… to winning "the jackpots" and not merely having "the ante" to get into the game?
Valuable, original content! If you keep it real, like SBI! owners do, your results get better over time. Why? Because you are already where Google wants you to be.
Because your content pleases humans. And that is extremely important to the Search Engines. Google wants much more than "relevance" — it wants quality content, and it measures that by an ever-more-complex system of tracking human behavior before, during, and after a visit.
Put this question to yourself… "What if Google announced tomorrow that its Search Engine had perfected Artificial Intelligence? That it could determine the relevance and the quality of any page for any search, doing it as well as smart human beings who are knowledgeable in that particular field, and thereby return the perfect search results for any query?
"Am I ready for that?"
SEOers are not. But that’s where Google (et al) are headed. They won’t launch true AI for a long time of course, but they are simulating it better and better.
All the best,
P.S. I wrote the above after reading about Mr. Calacanis’s "bullshit" comment at SES Chicago and before he blogged on this topic. His thoughts are now well expressed on this post.